The City of Malibu’s new environmental sustainability director Yolanda Bundy addressed a town hall Saturday focused on rebuilding Malibu. Bundy, who most recently worked in Ventura, helped hundreds of families rebuild after the 2017 Thomas Fire. The highly experienced and educated director got emotional when speaking about her experience helping fire victims because, she said, she has witnessed the heartache of hundreds of displaced families.
“That’s why I want to help you rebuild,” she told roughly 150 in attendance. In Ventura, Bundy helped hundreds with the arduous task of rebuilding and promised those at Malibu City Hall that she will do whatever she can to guide residents through the daunting process and onerous building codes.
Bundy’s goal is to streamline the permit process and assist homeowners through the maze of complicated regulations, reports and plan check requirements. She received applause when she stated there will be just one counter for approval stamps. Her streamlining is to also include over-the-counter reviews for second submittals along with new coordination with Southern California Edison and the fire department.
One year after the Woolsey Fire, it’s going slowly, with 10 projects under planning review, 186 homes approved by the planning department, only 42 building permits issued and no homes completed.
The city fire rebuild desk is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There, employees can assist residents with all the steps to submit plans, including reports from various agencies such as environmental health, geology, biology, Los Angeles County Water and Power and LA County Fire Department, which determines if there’s adequate access.
Bundy, who recently met with fire officials, was told roughly 20 percent of parcels that are to be rebuilt will need to have an upgrade for fire department access. State fire code requires access at least 20 feet wide.
“Some homeowners may not have the space required, so the chief told me that they are coming out with more flexible parameters,” Bundy explained. “He’s willing to allow 15 feet wide—in some cases. Make sure you reach out to the fire department. The chief may do a site visit and meet with you and then make a determination.” Meetings will be on a one-on-one basis. The fire department will need to see architectural plans to review egress and sprinkler placements.
Since state building codes are changing in 2020, Bundy urged homeowners to submit plans before the changes go into effect Jan. 1, noting that her offices at City Hall will be open Dec. 31 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Fire victims will get a break, however, on one code change, thanks to AB 178. Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law exempting wildfire victims from California’s solar mandate program. The exemption to install solar photovoltaics ends in 2023.
While Bundy promised to be a resource for burned-out residents, one person at the town hall still expressed frustration in the overall process. William Kostman, who is trying to rebuild, said, “It’s hard to get a true estimate of what it’s really going to cost. It’s not just rebuilding the house. There are hidden costs, like plumbing and landscaping. People always want to take your money.”
That’s where another resident chimed in and told the audience he thought it was helpful to have various engineers on your project meet together in an effort to stay on the same page. “The city has been great. It’s the private sector that’s hurting us,” that resident said. Malibu so far has waived $1.2 million in permit fees.
Mayor Karen Farrer expressed confidence in Bundy, saying, “I’m very grateful to recently hired building official Yolanda Bundy for bringing a rare combination of traits to her position: professional expertise and disaster recovery experience along with a deep sense of empathy and commitment to the community. I commend City Manager Reva Feldman for the decision to hire her.”
Farrer called the town hall extremely informative and reminded that a video of it will be posted on the city website.
“You’re my priority now. I’m not here to make you promises—only to walk you through the process. We will make it happen together. We’re here for you,” Bundy declared with conviction.